Monday, May 30, 2011

Raise medical tuition

A NY Times op-ed says:
DOCTORS are among the most richly rewarded professionals in the country. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that of the 15 highest-paid professions in the United States, all but two are in medicine or dentistry.

Why, then, are we proposing to make medical school free?

Huge medical school debts — doctors now graduate owing more than $155,000 on average, and 86 percent have some debt — are why so many doctors shun primary care in favor of highly paid specialties, where there are incentives to give expensive treatments and order expensive tests, an important driver of rising health care costs.
They have cause and effect mixed up. There is a lot of money in health care for a lot of reasons. Physicians charge whatever the market will bear. They borrow money because they have high earnings potential. Free medical school will have no effect on their salaries. It would make more sense to raise tuition at medical school, since the physicians easily earn it back anyway.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Psychiatry cannot detect fakes

The Wash. Post reports:
Welner determined that Mitchell, who sang through his court proceedings and spouted pseudo-religious gibberish, was a skilled con man who was largely faking his delusions.

“Psychiatry is far less able to detect faking than it asserts,” Welner said in an interview this week. “Experience teaches me that an ounce of fact is worth a pound of expertise.”
So if psychiatry cannot detect fakes, how did he determine that Mitchell was a fake? Welner seems to be admitting that he cannot back up what the feds paid him to assert in court.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

If there is surf, nothing gets done

The Santa Cruz Sentinel reports:
SANTA CRUZ -- When Ted Nicholson hitchhiked from his San Bruno naval post to Santa Cruz in 1944, he wasn't sure what to expect. ...

Kim Stoner, a founding member of the preservation society, recalled the effort to create the museum with the city's help. It took a while to get organized -- "If there is surf, nothing gets done," he said -- but when it was finished, it became the world's first surfing museum.
This is a city where the oral history comes from a man named Kim Stoner.

I recently learned that surfers contributed to the Apollo space project. The rocket scientists needed insulation, and they copied the insides of surfboards. The scientists said that the surfers were a great bunch of guys, but only available when the surf was not up.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Evolutionist wants more diabetic black lesbian poets

Pharyngula responds to one of his readers:
I am, however, rather conservative in my views. That's what troubles me with atheism lately, it seems that atheists are generally on the left side of the political spectrum. Esp. your last post about how atheists should have progressive views in terms of "racism", "gender equality" and "disability rights" made me thinking.

I feel like I agree with Conservative Chirstians on most political and social issues. For example, I think that abortion is wrong, that homosexuality is wrong and that feminism is one of the biggest threats to society. ...
However, one cannot be a rational, intelligent human being and contributing member of society and hold the conservative views you do. When you say you favor increasing individual freedom, you actually mean increasing the individual freedom of healthy white male heterosexuals who have skills that corporate interests find profitable, which, I'm sorry to say, is an extremely narrow slice of our culture, and not necessarily the best element of our society. Whatever shall we do with diabetic black lesbian poets in your world?
It seems to me that leftism, atheism, and evolutionism are separate beliefs, but to academics like PZ Myers, they are very closely related.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Testing nonperceptible Euclidian geometry

The NY Times reports:
Although many school-going youth might disagree, a new study finds that geometry is an intuitive subject that is easy to grasp even in the absence of formal training.

Researchers posed questions in Euclidean planar geometry to adults and children from the MundurucĂș community, an isolated indigenous group in the Amazon. Despite having no formal education, the MundurucĂș were able to quickly grasp concepts in planar geometry relating to points, lines and triangles.

The study appears in the current issue of Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
The study says:
Kant argued that Euclidean geometry is synthesized on the basis of an a priori intuition of space. This proposal inspired much behavioral research probing whether spatial navigation in humans and animals conforms to the predictions of Euclidean geometry. However, Euclidean geometry also includes concepts that transcend the perceptible, such as objects that are infinitely small or infinitely large, or statements of necessity and impossibility. We tested the hypothesis that certain aspects of nonperceptible Euclidian geometry map onto intuitions of space that are present in all humans, even in the absence of formal mathematical education. ...

For instance, on a surface described to them as perfectly planar, the Mundurucu's estimations of the internal angles of triangles added up to ~180 degrees, and when asked explicitly, they stated that there exists one single parallel line to any given line through a given point.
This did not test "nonperceptible Euclidian geometry". Angles are perceptible, and so is parallelism. If they wanted something nonperceptible, then they should have asked some abstract math questions. This study does not do what it says.

One of the coauthors is Elizabeth Spelke, a Harvard professor who claims to have done experiments showing that baby boys and girls have the same innate skills.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Girl dates a bisexual

Sunday's newspaper advice:
Dear Margo: I am a 17-year-old senior in high school. My wonderful boyfriend, "John," recently came out to me as bisexual. ... We both are headed to college next year, so that will open up new populations for us. What will happen then will happen, but, for now, we want to be together. How can I convey that to my mom? - Samantha

Dear Sam: ... Assuming you are sexually active, I suspect that your father's concern is - and your mother's will be - that the possibility of sexually transmitted diseases increases when a partner is active with both sexes.

I don't know the level of openness you have with your parents, but I would tell them that you practice safe sex - which I sincerely hope is the case. In addition, tell your mother that you and John have agreed to date others when you both go to school - which is not all that far off.
The letter did not say anything about agreeing to date others.

The message here is that as long as everyone is promiscuous and using condoms, then no parent should object to a 17-year-old daughter dating a bisexual. Weird.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Sell the Moon rocks

AP reports:
A woman who tried to sell what she said was a rare piece of moon rock for $1.7 million was detained when her would-be buyer turned out to be an undercover NASA agent, officials said Friday.

The gray rocks, which are considered national treasures and are illegal to sell, were given to each U.S. state and 136 countries by then-President Richard Nixon after U.S. moon missions and can sell for millions of dollars on the black market.
That is what is wrong with NASA. It is unamerican to prosecute someone for owning a Moon rock.

NASA should have auctioned off 10% of its Moon rocks to private collectors back in 1972. The Russians have a better attitude. Soviet and now Russian cosmonauts have carried firearms in space for decades and continue to do so.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Can America go back to its 1965 borders?

Steve Sailer writes:
The front-and-center featured article on the NYT today reports that "by the time the children of illegal immigrants reached age 2, they showed significantly lower levels of language and cognitive development than the children of legal immigrants and native-born parents." 
Illegal Immigrants' Children Suffer, Study Finds ...
Translated into Occam-speak, what the NYT is reporting is: At the earliest point at which we can test, illegal immigrants' children are less intelligent on average.
"Millions of the youngest citizens in the United States, simply by virtue of being born to a parent with a particular legal status, have less access to the learning opportunities that are the building blocks of adult productivity," he wrote. ... 
Let's reread the crucial clause: "simply by virtue of being born to a parent with a particular legal status." Uh, no.
Poor cognitive development can lead to lower school performance, which in turn can lead to higher dropout rates, an undertrained work force and lower economic productivity. 
Indeed. Therefore, the article suggests, the appropriate response to the relative stupidity of the children of illegal immigrants is granting their parents amnesty.

There's a second cognitive problem that goes unmentioned in this article, but one that might be even more threatening to America's future. A close reading of most illegal immigration-related articles in the New York Times over the last decade reveals that the topic of illegal immigration make the New York Times stupider. 
Stupid? The NY Times, and its base of readers, are ideologically committed to the ethnic divisions caused by low-IQ immigration.

One of his readers says:
If Israel is supposed to go back to its 1967 borders, can America go back to its 1965 borders? Please?
Good line. The 1965 immigration law was a racist law designed to change the long-term ethnic make-up of the USA.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Psychologist censored for beauty comments

NPR reports:
A blog posting on the website of Psychology Today asserted that black women were "objectively less physically attractive than other women" and then, as a backlash built — it vanished.
The author, Satoshi Kanazawa, has published an assortment of divisive opinions, such as liberals and atheists being more intelligent. The censored blog posting may be found here. It says:
It is very interesting to note that, even though black women are objectively less physically attractive than other women, black women (and men) subjectively consider themselves to be far more physically attractive than others.
Some are saying that the research being this is weak, but most psychology research is weak.

The current David Brooks column in the NY Times claims to report on current research in evolutionary psychology, but it is not really any more scientific, as explained here.

Update: This June 5 blog post says that the Japanese evolutionary psychologist was fired for offending people:
And now Satoshi Kanazawa's lost his blog and his profile page has been deleted from Psychology Today's website. His article and unqualified research on unattractive black women sent off a fury of protests online. 75,000 people blew up Psychology Today via email, Twitter and Facebook. Some even rang Psychology Today's telephones off the hook.
The magazine is filled with dubious research claims and generalizations, but I guess the editors are going to censor the offensive claims.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Maybe DSK was framed

One blog is suspicious:
Dominique Strauss-Kahn, IMF Managing Director and French presidential candidate, has been accused of rape. As the feminist dominated press is scared to even think that the rape accusations are false, Human-Stupidity has to speak up. The story is very strange, and dominated by clear mistakes and screwups committed by the accuser. A five-star hotel maid trespasses into a naked client’s room? Unforgivable. Five-star hotel security let a rapist check out without complaint? The maid wasn’t trained to instantly report crimes to security staff?
See also comments here.

The story is fishy. A famous French politician rapes a black African immigrant hotel maid? A 32-year-old woman cannot get away from a 62-year-old naked unarmed man? What was the maid even doing there? In my experience, maids make an immediate exit if they accidentally walk in on a naked man. Why is he being held without bail? How did he ever get to be such a big-shot politician if he was prone to spontaneously raping whomever he might accidentally encounter when he gets out of the shower?

The man is inncocent until proven guilty. The accusation does not sound plausible to me.

Update: Reports say that the accuser speaks French, is 6 feet tall, and is a Moslem.

Update: A reader asks why I mention that the accuser, Ms Nafissatou Diallo, is a tall African Moslem, and not that the accused is a short French Jewish banker. Maybe that is relevant also. I read that she lives in some sort of subsidized housing for HIV+ people. The Wikipedia story omits these facts. Ben Stein says that DSK should be presumed innocent, and lists a few reasons for skepticism.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Marital entanglement

Quantum mechanics is not known to be significant for macroscopic objects, but here is an attempt:
For the ultimate in a nondenominational wedding ceremony, consider a quantum entanglement. The ceremony, developed by conceptual artist, Jonathon Keats, is borrowed from quantum physics, where when two or more subatomic particles become entangled, they behave as one.

Keats has designed an entangling apparatus, which, when situated in a sunny window and exposed to the full spectrum of solar radiation divides pairs of entangled photons and translates them to the bodies of a nearby couple. ...

According to Keats, the couple won't know to what extent they've become entangled, because any attempt to measure a quantum system disturbs it.

"The quantum marriage will literally be broken up by skepticism about it," he said.
This is pretty wacky, but it is not too far off of what some interpretations of quantum mechanics allow.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Evidence for the unconscious

People have been trying to find evidence for the unconscious mind for centuries. Sigmund Freud got famous by promoting bogus theories about the unconscious. Julian Jaynes theorized about ancient men hearing the voices of gods in their unconscious minds.

Now psychologists claim to have new evidence:
Now, new research by four Israeli psychologists—Liad Mudrik and Dominique Lamy of Tel Aviv University, and Assaf Breska and Leon Y. Deouell of Hebrew University of Jerusalem—suggests that scientists have been underestimating the abilities of the unconscious mind. “Integration can happen even when we’re unaware of the stimulus,” says Mudrik. “Unconscious processes are much more sophisticated and deeper than was previously believed.” ...

To test this idea, the researchers put their subjects—18 men and women with normal vision—before a stereoscope, which allows stimuli to be introduced to each eye separately. ...

The incongruent scenes broke through the visual noise and came into awareness significantly faster than the congruent ones.
This seems to be nothing more than the trivial observation that it takes more time to recognize an unfamiliar scene.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Column has wacky idea of reasonable advice

Today's wacky advice:
Dear Annie: Two years ago, my wife and our 25-year-old daughter had a falling out right after our son's wedding. ...

Dear Caught: Your wife could be right about the daughter-in-law, but even so, it serves no purpose to demand an apology from someone who isn't likely to give one. Your wife also sounds like a difficult person. Has she always been like this? Some women have extreme mood swings during menopause. Please ask your wife to see her gynecologist about this possibility. ...

Dear Annie: I am a retired probation officer and would like to offer some suggestions to "Marriage on the Rocks," whose 51-year-old stepson lives rent-free in their trailer and may be using drugs.

1. Call the police and have their drug team search your property, house and trailer for drugs or paraphernalia. If the stepson has any illegal substances, he goes to jail. Police don't need a warrant if you invite them to search your property. ...

Dear Shaggy: Your suggestions are strict but reasonable.
This advice is so bad that is sounds like a joke. If the wife demands an apology, send her to get gynecological exam. If the stepson is suspected of using drugs, call the police and have him jailed.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Detecting liars

Most people are lousy at detecting liars. Even people who should be good at it, such as courtroom judges, are no better than average people in objective tests. The worst are the people who claim to be good judges of people. They are the most easily fooled.

The only ones who excel at detecting liars are FBI agents who have been trained at it. It is not a difficult skill. A good summary is How to tell when someone’s lying.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Be suspicious of 99 percent

Carl Bialik reports, for the WSJ:
Russell V. Lenth, a statistician at the University of Iowa, wrote, “I am automatically suspicious of any stated probability of 99%, 99.9%, etc. These are usually numbers people use to state that they are confident of something, without having actually calculated anything.” ...

That’s a concern in genetic testing to resolve paternity disputes. It is “possible to find two or more men (this occurs most frequently with close relatives) who each have a ‘probability of paternity’ well in excess of 99% — which, obviously, is rather silly,” wrote William C. Thompson, professor of criminology, law and society at the University of California, Irvine.
There are many fishy things about the Osama bin Laden raid. The DNA and facial recognition claims sound as if they were written by White House staffer who watch too much CSI TV.

Everyone complains that Pakistan had 5 years to notice the OBL compound, and do something. But reportedly, our own CIA knew about it for 6 months, and took 6 months to figure out what to do.

Monday, May 09, 2011

The autism quacks

Reported rates of autism have been skyrocketing. Textbooks in the 1980s said that it affected less than 5 out of 10,000 kids. Today, a new report says this:
CHICAGO/SEOUL (Reuters) – One out of every 38 children in South Korea may have autism, a surprisingly high number based on a new research approach that suggests autism is a global problem that is significantly underdiagnosed, researchers said on Monday.

The estimate, which translates into 2.64 percent of children, is far higher than the estimated 1 percent rate seen in studies in the United States and Europe. ...

"The high prevalence comes from this new population we included in our study -- the kids without any previous developmental delays or mental health issues," Kim said. ...

In Asia, parents are largely ignorant about the disorder, which has no cure, and are reluctant to face it. ...

"One problem that seems to pop up frequently is that parents do not want to acknowledge that their child/children may be autistic," said the woman, who asked not to be named.
If I were a Korean parent of a kid with no developmental delays or mental health issues, and some Chicago shrink told me that my kid was born with an incurable mental disease, then I would be skeptical also.

Why is it that the only one to admit this obvious fact is a woman who refuses to be identified? I smell a rat.

There is a movement today among psychologists and other quacks to stigmatize as many kids as possible as having autism, attention deficit disorder, or some other malady. There is no science to this, other than the fact that different people have different personality characteristics.

Friday, May 06, 2011

Stop writing about geology

The NY Times reports:
Black children are most acutely affected: The study found that 17 percent of black children - nearly 1 in 5 - received a diagnosis of asthma in 2009, up from 11.4 percent, or about 1 in 9, in 2001.
No, 17 percent is 1 in 6, not 1 in 5. I always worry about the reliability of an article like this, when it has such a glaring arithmetic mistake. Worse, I did a google search for "one in five (17 percent)" shows 100s of articles! Apparently it is a common mistake.

I guess I should be glad that they bother to report statistical evidence at all. A famous writer for the New Yorker magazine (John McPhee) says that he gets hate mail when he writes about science:
Some lawyer in Boston sent me a letter —- this man, this adult, had gone to the trouble to write in great big letters: stop writing about geology. And it’s on the letterhead of a law firm in Boston.
I thought that New Yorker readers just read for literary style, and do not care what the articles are about. The magazine did publish a physics article recently:
Deutsch believes that if a quantum computer were built it would constitute near-irrefutable evidence of what is known as the Many Worlds Interpretation of Quantum Mechanics. A number of respected thinkers in physics besides Deutsch support the Many Worlds Interpretation, though they are a minority, and primarily educated in England, where the intense interest in quantum computing has at times been termed the Oxford flu. But the infection of Deutsch’s thinking has mutated and gone pandemic. Other scientists, although generally indifferent to the truth or falsehood of Many Worlds as a description of the universe, are now working to build these dreamed-up quantum computing machines.
This should sound fishy, even if you don't know anything about the subject. Researchers are trying to do an experiment that will prove the existence of Many Worlds, and yet they are indifferent to its truth or falsehood.

How can that be? Simple. The experiments will fail, and Many Worlds is an unscientific fantasy.

Thursday, May 05, 2011

Why California is broke

The Si Valley paper reports:
According to reporting by Bay Area News Group, the average salary of a 30-year state employee is actually $67,000, on top of Social Security benefits that bring the annual retirement income to nearly $90,000 for many.
What is wrong here is that present-day taxpayers are on the hook for crooked political deals that were made 10 or 20 years ago. Upholding these pension contracts is incompatible with republican government.

Wednesday, May 04, 2011

The bored wife in her 40s

Today's Dear Annie advice column has yet another self-pitying whining letter from an age 40s woman bored with married life and lacking sexual intimacy. The advice is to find a "more understanding counselor", and to refer to the advice given to the last such letter:
You need to ask yourself that Ann Landers question: “Are you better off with or without him?” And only you can supply the answer.
My point is not to agree or disagree with this advice. I am just remarking that this is the dominant secular advice in our society today. Get a therapist who will validate your dissatisfactions, ignore your marriage vows, prepare to dump your family, and do whatever is in your personal self-interest.

Not everyone agrees with this advice. An online comment today from a Lily O. says:
I'm sorry for what you are going through, and I hope you take my words with all the Christian love intended.

I suspect the reason no one is responding to your cry of "rape" is because you were not, in fact, raped. I do not accuse you of being dishonest, only of being confused. Society has taught you that the definition of rape is broad, when it is not.

By your own words, you married a decent man, so I doubt he used physical violence against you. In fact, he merely reminded you of your marital duties. I understand that you may feel violated, as the Lord's Word on marital relations and the dynamic between a husband and wife has been lost in recent generations, but I suspect the help you seek is not on a therapists couch, but in a pastor's office. A loving, spiritually sound pastor will help you see that you have violated God's instructions to wives in this matter. Again, I am not blaming you. This is a confusing time we live in, and men and women's marital and sexual roles have been greatly confused.

Forget about calling your husband a rapist, and instead, work on making him once again the spiritual head of your household, and you will find peace within your marriage again. I wish you both luck.
This drew some enraged comments from other women:
Your comment of ‘marital duty' makes my blood boil. ... And I would not blame her for leaving him.
Marriage is defined by the dominant cultural norms, not me. I am just reporting some sharply differing opinions.

Tuesday, May 03, 2011

Orthorexia, the SWPL eating disorder

A Natural News site complains that others think that the health food freaks have a mental disorder:
Do you avoid foods that contain artificial colors and sweeteners, and stick to whole, unprocessed foods instead? If so, you just might have orthorexia, an imaginary "disease" created in 1997 by Dr. Steven Bratman that appears to be gaining more attention in recent days. According to a recent report in Yahoo! News, restricting one's diet to healthy, pure foods is a compulsive disorder that requires cognitive behavior therapy in order to cure.

Written about in so-called respected health journals like the Journal of the American Medical Association and Psychology Today, "orthorexia nervosa," which means "nervous about correct eating" in Latin, allegedly causes malnourishment, anxiety, and social disorders. Its creators claim it stems from a type of obsessive compulsive disorder, and that it can lead to anorexia.
Obsession with so-called natural and heathly foods is a mental disorder as much as many others in the official DSM-IV-TR. The SWPL folks who shop at Whole Foods are not any healthier than anyone else. There is no research that shows such food to be any better.

The bad science behind popular diet and nutrition advice is explained by Gary Taubes in the current Bloggingheads science show. He is right that the whole field is filled with quacks, and physicians are leading with the misinformation.

The healthiest food ever invented is the grilled cheese sandwich. Today's WSJ reports:
Over the years, his appetite and admiration grew, eventually culminating in the annual Grilled Cheese Invitational, which attracts fans eager to display novel takes on the ultimate American comfort food.

The event is a testament to the nation's grilled-cheese renaissance. That the humble gooey sandwich has gone gourmet is evidenced by trendy grilled-cheese trucks that tweet their whereabouts, the advent of top chefs divining grilled-cheese creations and the appearance of cookbooks devoted entirely to grilled-cheese recipes. The L.A. invitational has spawned regional competitions across the country.

"It's the power of cheese," says Mr. Walker, 38, unquestionably the Head Cheese at the invitational. "Cheese moves people," he said, an orange fez on his head.
The nation's grilled-cheese renaissance is the best news since the death of bin Laden.

Update: One of Taubes's more striking claims was that the data from studies show that (sodium) salt does not cause hypertension, contrary to what all the supposed experts say. This is confirmed by a new study, as reported in today's NY Times:
A new study found that low-salt diets increase the risk of death from heart attacks and strokes and do not prevent high blood pressure, but the research’s limitations mean the debate over the effects of salt in the diet is far from over.

In fact, officials at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention felt so strongly that the study was flawed that they criticized it in an interview, something they normally do not do.
Wow, I was skeptical about Taubes on this point. I have mentioned before in 2005 that advice about salt may be wrong, but this goes beyond that.